Experts Everywhere – Not a Sale in Sight

There are a lot of people who say they know how to sell books. You meet them everywhere. On the Internet – in workshops – and even in person. The other day I ran into one of those so-called experts at the Chandler Art and Author Walk. An author who insisted on offering free advice – even when I didn’t ask for any.

We shared a common booth – though we were at different tables. She was an author of young adult fiction. I’d watched her set up her table with precision – even dressed like the characters on her covers. It looked amazing. I admired her work. I should have known better than to talk to her. I could immediately sense the tension.

It seems to me that the first rule in selling a book at a book fair might be kindness towards others. To get anyone to stop at a booth requires warmth and friendliness. After all, selling a book is more art than science, and yet, this particular author insisted on relaying all sorts of rules. And since actions speak louder than words – I learned an awful lot about what not to do.

  1. Torpedo the competition. Drill nearby authors on their “pitch” while repeatedly telling them “a reader would never be interested in what you’re saying”.
  2. Greet people as they step into the selling zone of your neighbor’s table – pulling them away.
  3. Engage with a customer who has turned to look at you – in an  desperate attempt to move on to the next table.
  4. Fail to refer someone who you’ve been talking with on to the next author – even if you doubt an eighty-year old man would be interested in “young adult fiction”.
  5. Engage in endless discussions with passers-by about writing – making certain they stand in front of your neighbors table.
  6. Offer snide remarks to fellow authors as a substitute for practicing friendliness. Everybody loves a smart ass.

Through the evening – which seemed much longer than it had to be – this expert author managed to alienate someone who could have been a friend. I wondered if I should recommend she try a Dale Carnegie course – but then – a 60-year old bulldozer doesn’t want advice on how to treat other people. You can’t teach some experts anything. Just be grateful when you get to close up your table and move on.

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